The Eighty Eighth Key, Chapter 67.1

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Back into Harry’s world as the eighty-eighth key begins to wind down to a conclusion…but don’t worry, you still have time for tea.

[insensatez \\ sylvia telles]

Chapter 67.1

Callahan stood by the edge of the pool — staring into the blue as if transfixed by something only he could see. Shadows passed by not far below, yet even deeper, perhaps hundreds of feet below the surface, he could just make out a faint, iridescent glow only a shade or two lighter — yet even so the whole scene appeared out of place. The water, he told himself, should have simply faded away to black, not grown lighter with increasing depth, yet when an orca swam by the creature was backlighted, and that most definitely was just plain wrong. But, then again, everything about this place seemed completely wrong.

The walls seemed to have been blasted away to create this “pool”, yet the pool appeared to cover several acres or more in total area, and it also appeared to be impossibly deep — and while he didn’t know a lot about construction he’d been involved in several large projects and he didn’t see how this cavern could have possibly been man made. But how could a natural formation like this exist, undetected, on earth?

The immediate conclusion he reached wasn’t as far-fetched sounding as it first seemed to Callahan. Hadn’t he just spent a year inside a Dyson sphere, allegedly billions of light years distant… 

But as he reached for a memory of his time there he found it missing. Indeed, now those first days inside the sphere seemed to be the only period he still remembered, but how could that be? 

He remembered the Air Force general, however, and that time just weeks ago when he’d flown to Hawaii with Brendan’s father. And right now this general and one of the men in lab coats was walking his way.

“Harry Callahan,” the General said, holding out his right hand. “Nice to see you again.”

Callahan took the man’s hand, trying to hide his disorientation behind a minor grin. “You too,” he managed to say.

“This is Ralph Richardson,” the General added. “He’ll be running one of the research labs here.”

Callahan took this man’s hand and he noted his firm grip and clear, direct eyes. “I hate to ask, but where the devil are we?”

Richardson spoke now: “About five hundred feet beneath Palo Alto. Do you know where the linear accelerator crosses the 280? We’re about a half mile southwest of there.”

“No shit? Given the size of this pool I assumed we must be on another planet.”

The General nodded. “We haven’t been briefed-in on that aspect of the project, but from what little I’ve been able to put together so far I assume it has something to do with teleportation.”

“What?” Callahan muttered. “You mean like ‘beam me up, Scotty?’”

The General shrugged. “Like I said, yo no se, ya know? By the way, you look a little chilly, if you don’t mind me saying so. Would you like to see your quarters now, maybe shower-up before lunch?”

“Quarters? You mean…we’re staying here?”

“After all the hullabaloo up at Sea Ranch, you bet you’re staying here. At least until we can get a handle on what that was all about?”

“I see. So, what you’re saying is you have no idea how we got here because you haven’t been briefed on some unknown aspect of a project that may or may not have something to do with teleportation? Is that what I’m hearing?”

“Yes,” the General said, tossing in another little shrug.

“Well, ain’t that just ducky.”

“Depends on your point of view, Mister Callahan. You’re alive right now and we want to keep you that way. There are some very bad actors out there gunning for you and that kid…”

“Brendan?”

“Yes, Brendan.”

“Why? I mean, what are they after?”

“You both have certain…abilities…that could easily be exploited if someone was of a mind to do so.”

“Exploited? What are you…”

“Let’s not play this game right now, Callahan. There are a bunch of things going on around here you know nothing about, but this ability you have, the ability to bend the laws of time, represents a very serious national security challenge, and right now about all you really need to know is there are several groups out looking for you — because they want to get their hands on you. They want to know how you do what you do, and to that end we’ve tried to round up everyone you might have demonstrated this ability to.”

Callahan blinked rapidly, then he turned and walked back to the water’s edge and looked down into the cobalt vastness. He saw an orca swim by perhaps ten feet down, but a second later the diffuse blue glow seemed to blaze for a moment and he thought it looked like a doorway had opened. And that’s when he thought he saw several orcas disappear inside the ship down there—just before the glow disappeared.

+++++

Deborah Eisenstadt sat beside Harry at lunch, but she was worried about him right now. After twenty minutes under a hot shower he was still shivering, and just now, when he tried to pick up his fork, his right hand had jerked so madly the utensil flew across the table before it rifled to the floor. His eyes were narrow slits and his skin excessively pale, yet after ten minutes more trying to eat his lips started to turn blue, and then his nail beds. Classic hypoxia, she thought…but why now?

Then she saw that Didi Goodman, the spy who had essentially raped him down on the beach, and she was shivering and cyanotic.

The General watched them for a minute, then got up to leave the dining room — but not before he stopped beside Callahan to see if he was feeling better.

“You’re not looking too good, Callahan,” the General sighed, gently placing his hand on Harry’s shoulder.

Then the air around Harry and Didi seemed to dissolve inside a blackish mist — just before they disappeared. Again.

+++++

‘Air cold and very humid. Inside that bucket. So I’m back on the Titanic…’

He reached out and felt the wood slats, felt the almost frozen condensation running down the varnished mahogany, then he felt Didi by his side.

“It’s starting all over again,” she whispered.

“You’re not pregnant again, are you?”

“Not that I’m aware of,” she teased.

“You sure? I mean…Brendan didn’t…?”

“I think I’d remember if he did…”

“Here now! What are you two doing up here?” one of two seamen said. “You two ain’t supposed to be…”

“Oh dear God!” the other sailor cried as he reached for the ship’s bell. “Iceberg! Dead ahead!” he shouted towards the bridge.

Callahan and Didi stood and both could see that this new iceberg was immense, and the ship’s speed inexorable. One of the seamen, Reggie Lee, picked up the growler and called the OOD, the Officer of the Deck, then he was telling the ship’s First Officer, Mr Murdoch, that there was a large iceberg “Right ahead.” 

‘This isn’t like last time,’ Harry said under his breath, and just then he felt Didi pressing close, her hand feeling for his in the icy night.

The sharply pointed bow began to swing ever so slowly to the left, but even without already knowing the outcome they could see now the inevitable looming just ahead. A propellor was cavitating aft of the stacks, suddenly causing the entire ship to vibrate as the hull leaned slightly into the turn — all this just before first contact. Then a wall of shattered ice vaulted onto the foredeck and it seemed just minutes passed before raw seawater hit the boilers, causing vast plumes of steam to roar up and out of the four stacks, and everyone moved to cover their ears as the piercing cry of steam vaulted hundreds of feet skyward, shattering the still night.

“Harry,” Didi said, her eyes now filling with tears, “I’m scared.”

“You two best get yourself on down to the deck and find your lifeboat stations,” Seaman Lee advised. “And good luck to you both.”

Harry nodded and began making his way down the frozen steel rungs of the ladder, trying not to look at the listing deck almost a hundred feet beneath his feet.

+++++

 The General heard screams and returned to the dining room, only to find Callahan and Goodman missing. He nodded again then slowly left the room.

+++++

He stood in the center of the control room, looking at banks of displays.

“Do you have a positive track on them?” the General said, glad the tracking device he’d put on Callahan’s back was working better now.

“Yessir,” an airman said. “Spring 1912, nearing the Grand Banks.”

“So, it’s the Titanic again.”

“Looks that way, sir.”

“What’s the locking signal look like?”

“It’s the new one, sir. Helium times Pi.”

“Same as yesterday’s?”

“Yessir.”

“Okay, let me know when they jump.”

+++++

Callahan felt sick, like his skin and bones were being stretched and somewhere in the middle of his gut he felt a bundle of hot pinpricks trying to push their way through his skin to open space. He swallowed hard, closed his eyes to the disorienting flow of black light until, seconds or hours later he felt something like a hard floor underfoot.

He was shivering again, but not from the cold. This time it was, he knew, pure fear.

But he opened his eyes and then blinked as he tried to comprehend where they were now.

Curved walls, pure red. No real ceiling, just a walkway suspended — like maybe around the inside-center of a toroidal structure? Yet it was the deep crimson red that most overwhelmed his senses, because he’d never seen anything even remotely like this place before.

Turning around he saw a circular opening that appeared to be some sort of large hatchway, and yet the number 2 was clearly emblazoned in bright white on the right side of this door. Didi was, apparently, now too petrified to move, but as he started to walk towards the doorway she reached out for his hand and pulled him close again.

“Don’t leave me,” she whispered.

“Look at that door,” he said, pointing, “and tell me what you see.”

“It’s round…but, w-wait…isn’t that the number 2. And I think I recognize the typeface, too.”

“Yup, so apparently we’re inside something built by human hands.”

Then he heard footsteps. Quiet, too, like rubber soles on soft flooring, so Callahan turned to see who it was. And he saw a man, perhaps a little older than himself, accompanied by two women; one much younger and the other little more than a toddler. The man approached—but veered off to the curved wall, and once there he located a button and pushed it. A large window recessed into the toroid’s curved wall appeared, and beyond the glass—Earth. And as the toroid was spinning to provide gravity, the planet appeared to be spinning away slowly only a few hundred miles away.

With Didi still holding his hand, Callahan walked to the window and looked out over the Earth for a moment, then he looked at the man. “Do I know you?” Callahan asked.

“Doubtful,” the man sighed. “I’m Franklin Roosevelt, and no, I don’t think we’ve met.”

Didi was staring at the woman, and even though she appeared to be ignoring both Harry and herself, Didi could see the faintest traces of a smile on the woman’s face. “What’s so funny?” Didi finally asked the woman.

“You have your father’s eyes,” Claire Aubuchon said.

Which seemed the most preposterous thing Didi had ever heard. “You know my father?”

“Oh, perhaps – just a little.”

“Oh? Do tell.”

“Well, once upon a time I was his mother.”

Didi started to tremble in earnest now. “You…you’re…what?”

“I think that,” FDR said, grinning madly now, “makes her your grandmother. And, oh yes, by the way, I’d like to introduce you to your daughter, Dana.”

Didi Goodman started to say something…

But Callahan managed to catch her as she passed out, saving her from another nasty fall.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…

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